Dining Review: La Colombe – Cape Town, South Africa
Originally, I did not have anything planned for our first evening in Cape Town but after reading repeated recommendations, we were lucky enough to snag a last minute reservation at La Colombe – one of the top restaurants in the world. When I went to book, they were all full for parties of two but had availability for a party of four – I emailed them asking if it would be at all possible to adjust the availability to permit a party of two and voila they were able to accommodate. Not saying that every place would be able to do this but it never hurts to ask and I am so glad I did.
The drive was about a half hour to Constantia and I had really wished I took some meclizine cause this drive left me a bit car sick driving up and through the windy hills. But I tried to focus on the excitement of what we were hoping to be a memorable meal and wish away the nausea. This was certainly where the nicer houses of Cape Town are located – beautiful homes tucked away under the trees. Once we arrived, the car sickness subsided (thank god) as we were escorted into a luxurious meal.
The experience started as soon as we entered the door. We received the warmest welcome from the staff while we signed in for contact tracing and temperature screening. The room was beautiful – a view tucked into the dense woods, the dining room featuring natural tones and wood elements.
We were seated at our table to evaluate our menu options where an ornate nest welcomed us. With two dining options of an eight course spring menu and eleven course chef’s menu with optional wine pairings, we opted to go all out with the eleven courses and wine pairings – it was my birthday after all. At first glance, the nest seemed purely decorative. But upon further inspection and instruction from our server, this was the first course of the meal.
The Dove’s Nest
- Among the intricate design of this nest was a welcome note and two ceramic eggs with straws to accompany. There was a liquid inside the eggs to consume as the first course. While the exact concoction was not disclosed, the eggs were filled with a liquid palate cleanser to start the evening.
Truffled Cherry Parfait
Sweet Potato Bread
Malay Style Snoek
Wine: Botanica “the Flower Girl” (Stellenbosch)
- When this arrived at the table, we had no idea what to expect! Was all this edible? If so, what parts were edible? It was like pieces out of a scene from Alice and Wonderland. The presentation was simply stunning.
- Each item was incredibly creative and flavorful. We especially loved the sweet potato bread to mix and match the spreads.
- The wine was a lovely rose, very light with a hint of bubbly
- There were also two small white tablets with two divots of water. Since everything in this presentation appeared inedible but was indeed edible, I was happy the server pointed out that these tablets were not edible. When the tablets are placed in the water divots, they expand into towels. Neat technology but definitely not edible.
Smoked Tomato, Aubergine, Pine Nut
Wine: Saurwein “Chi” Riesling 2020 (Elgin)
- Another presentation delight! Brought to the table in a ceramic tomato, when the top was lifted a tomato smoke emerged to reveal the tomato course.
- This delicate tomato was filled with an aubergine and pine nuts – very yummy!
- We were very happy to see a Riesling on the menu and this paired nicely with the smokiness of the dish.
Tiger Prawn, Passion Fruit, Tom Yum
Wine: Rijks “Private Cellar” Chenin Blanc 2021 (Tulbagh)
- The first thing to arrive at the table was a small spoon and a pair of scissors… what on earth was coming to the table?
- Another visually amazing presentation – what was this? We had to refer to the menu several times to simply validate what we were eating. We learned the passion fruit was charred and inside the fruit was combined with the tiger prawn and tom yum – fascinating! We cut open the top to reveal the mixture inside. And a delicious mixture indeed! It was so darn flavorful and innovative.
- The wine pairing here was Chenin Blanc, a staple of South African white wine, and we loved this one.
Tuna “La Colombe”
Wine: Blind Tasting
- Black wine glasses appeared at the table – it was time for our blind tasting and I was so excited. We were told to just try guessing the grape and it was not a common variety to the South Africa region. With a first sip, it was clear it was a white wine due to the temperature and immediate refreshing and fruity profile. I got tastes and smells of stone fruit – like apricot and peach and there was definitely a sweetness to it. I immediately went to either a Riesling or a Gewurztraminer. It was so familiar of a taste and definitely not a Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, or Sauvignon Blanc. Since we had Riesling earlier in the meal, I did not think it likely a repeat grape was in store so, I threw up the Gewurztraminer… AND IT WAS RIGHT! I have never been so happy and proud – I could not believe I got it right. Highlight of South Africa was this moment.
- We learned this tuna dish is a staple of La Colombe. Presentation was again so interesting – a completely sealed tuna can. Upon opening revealed just a perfect display of yellowfin tuna, guacamole, cumin, chipotle, and citrus. Despite the spices, it was a delightful light dish.
Petite Poussin, Langoustine, Miso Corn
Wine: Domaine Des Dieux, “Josephine” Pinot Nior 2015 (Hemel-en-Aarde)
Wine: Gabrielskloof “Magdalena” White Blend 2017 (Western Cape)
- Everything on this plate was magical. The langoustine, the chicken, the corn just everything was so so so good – we both really loved this dish.
- There were two wine selections to pair and at our sommelier’s recommendation, we each had one so we could enjoy both. The white was a blend of Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc that was very nice and the pinot noir was equally balanced – we could see why both made good pairings for the strong flavors of the dish it was paired with.
- Now this is a unique palate cleanser! The hand crank snow machine was brought table side for fresh shaved ice with our choice of syrup to flavor the snow. I selected strawberry flavor and Kevin chose green apple flavor. Honestly, every course has been insanely creative and unique in both presentation and execution, and even though this was simply the palate cleanser, it still delivered.
Wagyu Beef, Celeriac, Kapokbos with addition of Pan Fried Foie Gras
Wine: Taaibosch “Crescendo” 2018 (Stellenbosch)
- Wow, wow, wow. It is always a treat to be served Wagyu beef and this was perfectly cooked and insanely tender. Even the smallest bite filled your mouth with flavor that only took a few chews to break down. We opted for the foie gras addition and I am so glad we did – pan fried foie gras is one of our flavor indulgences and this certainly met the match. There was a wine reduction along with the root puree that accompanied the dish wonderfully.
- The wine for this dish was equally bold to match the dish. A combination of largely Cabernet France rounded out with Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, it was extremely well rounded which is probably due to the 2018 vintage as it aged wonderfully. This was a perfect wine to pair with this meat forward dish.
The Cheese Chest, Roasted Pear, Oat
Wine: Sommelier’s Selection
- A wine cart appeared for our selection of an after dinner drink which included four choices. I will be honest that I do not recall the options but they were all a fortified wine. After hearing the options, we both picked ones that matched our tastes – I with something more sweet and less alcoholic tasting and Kevin with something more bitter. We were both happy with our selection and I am sad I do not remember the exact details of those beverages.
- Then, a cheese chest appeared with four different colored cases. We were permitted to select one of each to share. It was unclear how they repacked these cheeses but it was neat to have our own personal serving. We unwrapped each and split them in half so we could both enjoy all four cheeses. The accoutrements included hearty crackers and pear puree.
Coconut, Pineapple, Mango
WIne: Vondeling “Sweet Carolyn” 2017 (Voor-Paardeberg)
- Needless to say, we were getting extremely full both from all the courses and all the liquid so we were happy to reach the last course even if we did not want the experience itself to end.
- The wine here was a sweet dessert wine that reminded me of a late harvest with the thick consistency and honey like flavor.
- Just when we thought we could relax and unbutton those pants (we didn’t just to highlight how we wanted to!), another item made its way to the table – a giant honey shaped ceramic. The server unraveled the honey shape into three sections that revealed more dessert! We just could not believe there was more food. There were mini bits of a meringue, eclair, and chocolate to enjoy and they were each very tasty.
What an incredible dining experience! We knew we were in for a treat attending a Top 50 restaurant in the world but I am not sure we were aware just how innovative and creative the presentation and flavor profile of the meal was going to be – just the coolest. We were so grateful to have this meal at La Colombe. The service was top notch, everyone we interacted with was welcoming, professional, and fun to converse with, the atmosphere in the room was not pretentious and quite relaxed, and we felt it was a good value for the price of the meal. Overall, we highly recommend it if you are in the Cape Town area and looking for an impressive and unique dining experience, no matter what the occasion.
Needless to say, we were stuffed and happy leaving La Colombe – we were so grateful we were able to fit this experience into this trip. Getting an Uber to come collect us was a bit tricky since we were so far away and it was late at night but eventually someone accepted our ride and we made sure to include a nice trip for the trouble – we had three drivers drop us before this one picked us up. Unfortunately, the drive back to the Airbnb was far worse than the drive up and it was painful for me – I can really kick myself for bringing medications to help with car sickness and then not having them available to take. I was thrilled when we finally got to the Airbnb and stopped moving, trying to center my poor car sick self to focus on being stationary. Luckily, sleep came very easy as we drifted into the night.